Everybody across the world is united in the desire to live in peace with justice for all, nobody wants to see their towns and cities reduced to rubble.
So how do we get justice for Ukraine?
The path to war in Ukraine
After Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea in a clear breach of the UN Charter. The separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk, supported by Russia, saw violence increase and thousands were killed, injured and displaced.
France and Germany led efforts to find a peaceful solution. Agreements were made and broken, observers were put in place to monitor the ongoing hostilities but the conflict was allowed to rumble on. Diplomats were unable to put enough pressure on those involved to maintain a ceasefire, or implement the measures needed to enable free and fair elections in Luhansk and Donetsk.
Russia demanded that Ukraine should grant independence to Luhansk and Donetsk and to declare that it would never join NATO. When Ukraine did not agree to the demands, Russia recognised Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states, and invaded Ukraine.
Major powers above the law
Through the United Nations the international community has provided the International Criminal Court (ICC) to send for trial those who have violated International Law. However the jurisdiction of this court is not recognised by three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, Russia and the United States.
Dominic Raab appeared on BBC Breakfast to suggest that Putin could be sent to jail for the invasion of Ukraine, seemingly unaware that Russia is not a party to the ICC. Putin should have been tried for war crimes for his actions in Chechnya, Blair and Clinton for the implementation of the genocidal sanctions imposed on Iraq, leaders of China for their treatment of Tibet, Hong Kong and Uighurs. None faced investigation or prosecution, nor will they.
To maintain peace and justice amongst nations, international law must be seen to be enforced.
A new treaty is needed
The people in Ukraine are just the latest victims in the catalogue of human disasters brought about by military power and aggression in the 21st century. People in Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, Syria, Tibet, Yemen and many others continue to be denied justice.
The principal instrument that the UN has to enforce International Law is by a resolution under Chapter 7 of UN Charter, but when the aggressor is also a permanent member of the Security Council, their power of veto ensures that no action can be taken against them.
Nations with little economic or military power continue to be subject to intimidation by those with greater power. Such nations wish to align themselves with more powerful ones, seeking protection and sacrificing some of their sovereignty to gain it.
There is a need for a new treaty so that the full range of international law from Human Rights, to the Protection of the Environment can be enforced. A good starting point would be for the UN General Assembly to call for a treaty to ensure that International Law is enforced as a matter of course rather than at the request of the Security Council. The goal should be an end to the use of military and economic power by one nation over another.
Not all nations would want to join or be ready to join such a treaty at the same time. As with other international treaties, it would only be enacted once the requisite number of nations that had signed up reached the required threshold.
Once implemented those members of the UN who are party to the treaty would be able to act together without needing the approval of the Security Council to enforce the law, allowing them to take action against
- signatory nations in breach of international law.
- any nation that is not a signatory which has violated the territory of a nation that is a signatory.
Even without Nuclear Weapons the combined military and economic power should deter any nation from attacking another. Enforcement would require considerable resources, with participants contributing in proportion to their GDP. These nations would no longer need to fund their own military power. The combined resources set aside for military use could also be available to respond to natural disasters and other global threats.
Those nations and their leaders who wish to be free to violate International Law would be progressively isolated.
A new foreign policy objective
The Russian invasion of Ukraine underlines the extent to which Russia and other major powers can and do flout International Law. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the United Kingdom should be at the forefront of progressing the enforcement of International Law, and this should be a primary goal of our Foreign Policy.
Having failed to avert this crisis, it seems that leaders across Parliament have no interest in searching for new solutions or fresh thinking about how to better manage international security. When the “Stop the War Coalition” issued a statement saying that a new Security deal was needed for Europe, suggesting that the Eastward expansion of NATO may be part of the problem, and questioning whether NATO is purely a defensive alliance, the statement was slammed with a torrent of abuse from the media and leading politicians alike. Shockingly some MPs were even coerced into withdrawing their support for the statement.
Surely now is the time to question much of what we have unthinkingly accepted for the past 75 years. Is NATO no longer a solution, but part of the problem? Are Nuclear weapons still needed? Should the UN play a greater role in enforcing International Law?
When the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted, the United States, the United Kingdom and France jointly declared that it was
“incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years“.
That statement is clearly no longer true.
Wider debate is needed in this country and elsewhere, but first, we must accept the blindingly obvious, that what we currently have isn’t working, and set our Foreign Policy objectives accordingly.